Entertainment

From paranormal to pumpkins, region provides spooky to spectacular October events

Whether you’re looking for haunted locations, fabricated scares or family friendly fun with a Halloween theme, you can carve out an entertaining road trip in just about any direction you head from Wichita this month. Here are some ideas in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.

Pumpkin Nights at Silver Dollar City: Rated G for Glowing: Silver Dollar City looks good in orange.

While most foliage had yet to start changing to fall colors while I was in Branson, Mo., last week during the opening of the 1880s-themed park’s Harvest Festival, there were many shades of orange (and other colors) in the form of 10,000 pumpkins.

A normal October at the park would have 800-1,000 pumpkins scattered across 100 acres of rides, craft shops, show venues, restaurants and other attractions. This year, they’ve created a new five-week Harvest Festival with extended hours that includes a focus on crafts during the day and pumpkins at night.

There are about 5,000 pumpkins grown by farmers and the other half are artificial carvable Fun-kins. Employees, called citizens at Silver Dollar City, have been carving them since January, along with Barry Brown, a master pumpkin carver based in Denver. Brown has a booth at the park throughout the festival to demonstrate his skills while making custom carvings for park-goers or carving masterworks that will be added to the park’s displays.

Throughout the park, carved pumpkins feature traditional faces, words or images that relate to their location. The area around Time Traveler, on record as the fastest, steepest, tallest spinning coaster in the world, has lots of steampunk carvings, for example.

Citizens also carved, built, painted and assembled amazing pumpkin sculptures, from 6-foot-tall totem poles with various themes to 8-foot-tall craftsmen like the pumpkin glass blower outside Hazel’s Blown Glass demonstrating shop to an 18-foot-high tree featuring gourds in many shapes and colors.

The tallest sculpture is a 26-foot-tall scarecrow pumpkin at the entrance to the Grand Exposition area of the park, which had some of my favorite sculptures in the shapes of an owl, a spider and a cat striking an arched back pose.

From here, you can walk into Pumpkin Plaza, an activity area that opens at 5 p.m. for Pumpkin Nights. There’s a DJ, a black-light dance area, mingling live characters as well as inflatable characters, fall activities and concession stands.

The theme carries over to seasonal food items. The in-park bakery makes pumpkin versions of its whoopie pies, cinnamon rolls and cupcakes, and you’ll also find stands selling pumpkin spice churros, fried pies, kettle corn, ice cream, lattes and more. My favorite was the pumpkin spice funnel cake. Don’t worry, there’s apple and other flavors if pumpkin isn’t your taste.

When you leave Pumpkin Plaza, don’t miss the woodland hike through one of the most densely treed areas of Silver Dollar City. It has some of the most creative carvings, from a stack of pumpkins with flame carvings that appear to be a burning campfire to intricate owl-face pumpkins perched in the trees.

I recommend you get to the park before dark because it’s fun discovering the pumpkin creations in daylight, then returning to see their illuminated look. Daytime also offers juried artists, visiting craftsmen and a makers’ market (see the schedule here: https://www.silverdollarcity.com/theme-park/Attractions/Craftsmen/Harvest-Festival-Craftsmen) in addition to the 100 resident demonstrating craftsmen. Some of the shops and demonstrators close at 6 p.m. even when the park is open later.

While Silver Dollar City closed at 6 p.m. with previous fall festivals, it is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 26. One-day tickets are $61 for ages 4-11, $69 for ages 65 and older and $71 for ages 12-64. There’s also a $50 all ages ticket to for entry at 5 p.m. or after. See a full list of ticket options at silverdollarcity.com.

The other two theme parks in the region offer a spooky vibe: family-friendly during the day and scary at night.

Worlds of Fun, Kansas City: The Great Pumpkin Fest during daylight hours on Saturday and Sunday in October is PEANUTS-themed family fun in Planet Snoopy, one of the largest kids areas in the country with more than 20 themed attractions. It’s open until 6 p.m. with live shows and themed activities, from a petting zoo to a Halloween costume contest and trick or treating.

Friday and Saturday nights unleash 13 extreme haunted attractions and 400 roaming monsters. Halloween Haunt includes 16 rides, eight mazes, four scare zones—including the new Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater—and three shows.

Admission throughout October ranges from $39 to $47 per person depending on age and date visiting. Purchase online to save money. There is also a parking fee. Operating hours are 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Visit worldsoffun.com/play/haunt for more information.

Frontier City, Oklahoma City: Part of the Six Flags theme park family, Frontier City offers more than 30 rides, shows and attractions in October. It is open 6 to 11 p.m. Fridays, noon to 11 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 10 p.m. Sundays and 6 to 10 p.m. Oct. 28 through Oct. 31.

On Saturdays and Sundays, the park’s rides run all day, weather permitting, with daylight shows and attractions aimed at families with young kids. Darkness brings out adult-oriented scares: More than 100 mutants, zombies and monsters, scare zones and haunted houses. The lineup also has shows with music, choreography and special effects and featuring death-defying stunts, illusions and gruesome sideshow oddities.

Admission is $49.99 though the Frontier City website is currently offering half-price advance purchase tickets. Some haunted houses carry an additional fee, and there is also a parking fee. Full details at sixflags.com/frontiercity.

Real haunts, Paranormal tours and events deliver history with mystery: More than two decades after earning the title of most haunted town in Kansas in the 1997 book “Haunted Kansas: Ghost Stories and Other Eerie Tales,” Atchison continues to embrace its haunted side year-round.

September and October are the busiest months, though, and the schedule of events and activities is too lengthy to list here but you can see it at visitatchison.com/haunted-atchison. They’ve got daytime and nighttime options ranging from paranormal to more of a focus on mystery and history of the Missouri River town. You’ll find trolley, bus and walking tours, meals with mediums and paranormal investigations, among other activities.

The boom in paranormal TV shows and podcasts has contributed to Atchison’s popularity, especially its two well-known haunted residences: The 1889 McInteer Villa and the 152-year-old Sallie House.

Both are privately owned and uninhabited – unless you book an overnight stay – and are open to visitors, mostly through group tours. This time of year, though, it’s easier to get inside through scheduled tours and events open to the public. McInteer is a stately mansion filled with period furnishings and, many believe, spirits from some of the eight documented deaths in the home.

Stories of house hauntings at Sallie House emerged in the 1990s and the old white frame house is known around the world for its documented paranormal activity.

If you’re interested in seeing the Sallie House but want to keep a little distance, sign up for Apparitions of Atchison on the porch of Tuck U Inn at Glick Mansion Bed & Breakfast, right across the street from the Sallie House. The event costs $15 and starts at 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 18. There will be ghost stories, warm beverages and, if you’re up for it, a tour of the Sallie House.

I joined a group tour earlier this year inside the Sallie House and found the experience interesting rather than creepy. Several in the group said they felt the presence of a spirit, either through changes in temperature, cell phones mysteriously freezing up or shutting down or photos showing eerie orbs of light.

Upstairs in the nursery, the group’s tour guide used ghost-hunting devices. They chirped and illuminated often, said to be signaling energy disturbances and fluctuations that could indicate that spirits are present. The only personal experience I had was several toys in the upstairs nursery turning on suddenly when nobody had touched them. I was glad I wasn’t staying the night.

There are several other paranormal tours and activities across Kansas and several in Oklahoma as well.

Road Trip Paranormal, various Kansas sites: Road Trip Paranormal brings the paranormal to the public throughout the state, with charity events, public investigations and speaking events. Owner Jason Roberts has two upcoming public events: Oct. 12 at Ness County Bank in Ness City and Nov. 2 at Depot Theater in Dodge City. The events are $30 per person and you work alongside the team of paranormal investigators, using their gear or your own. More events might be added; visit the company’s Facebook page at facebook.com/roadtripparanormal for more information.

Ghost Tours of Kansas, various sites: For a local option that will still get you on the road, try a ghost tour that is only available this time of year. Wichitan Jason Roberts’ Wichita-based Road Trip Paranormal investigators are hosts of Wichita Ghost Tours every Friday in October. These bus tours are offered through Ghost Tours of Kansas, a Topeka-based operation that coordinates bus tours, walking tours and paranormal events in Atchison, Holton, Kansas City, Lawrence, Leavenworth, Shawnee and Topeka. Dates and details for each location are at ghosttoursofkansas.org.

In Wichita, the tours start at 8 p.m. from an east side meeting spot then head to several of the city’s most haunted spots. That includes the Delano District and haunted hotels, theaters and churches along Douglas Avenue. There are two stops during the one hour 45 minute tour where you can get off the bus: 535 Salon at The Perfect Touch in Delano and the historic Maple Grove Cemetery on North Hillside. With investigators as your guides, you’ll hear about evidence they’ve collected at both.

Cost is $17.50 per person and must be booked online in advance.

Guthrie Ghost Walk Tours, Guthrie, Okla.: Guthrie, about 120 miles south of Wichita, is packed with ghost stories as the site of the largest contiguous historic district in the U.S.: 2,000 preserved buildings on 1,400 acres built when 10,000 new residents arrived with The Land Run of 1889.

Stacey Frazier leads 90-minute walking tours through the district’s brick-paved sidewalks, stopping at about six sites on each tour that are known for their paranormal activity to offer the history behind the mystery. A history enthusiast, Frazier has personally researched and verified every story that she shares, either through newspaper archives or files at the Oklahoma Territorial Museum in Guthrie.

Frazier offers the tours year-round, weekly when weather is comfortable outside and by appointment. In October, she leads tours starting at 7:15 p.m. every Thursday through Sunday with additional late walks starting at 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Cost is $10 for ages 15 and older, $7 for ages 7-14, ages under 7 free with paid adult. Reservations are required by calling 405-293-8404. More information at guthrieghostwalk.com.

Tulsa Spirit Tours, Tulsa, Okla.: Teri French has offered paranormal tours in Tulsa since 2003, when she found herself interested in the history behind the people and places where paranormal research investigations were taking place. If she learned that a woman had been murdered at a location and there were sightings of a female ghost there, French wanted to dig into her story to figure out why she was appearing.

She still offers her flagship Haunted Tulsa bus tour (refreshed about every five years), a two-hour drive by about a dozen historic locations while she shares city history, ghost stories and urban legends. This year she added at least one haunted stop, where you can use her electronic voice phenomena equipment (she still does investigations).

She offers the original tour year-round, adding extra dates in October, and also offers other themed walking and bus tours. A Haunted Pub Crawl bus tour is sold out for October, while there are still dates available this month for a Ghosts, Girls & Gunslingers walking tour and a Serial Killers, Murder & Mayhem bus tour. Prices range from $20 to $40 per person. Reservations are required and can be made online at tulsaspirittour.com.

Spooks, Spirits & Scoundrels walking tour, Oklahoma City: One of Destination Oklahoma’s most popular of its eight tour options starting in downtown Oklahoma City is the Spooks, Spirits & Scoundrels walking tour.

The two-hour, two-and-a-half-mile evening stroll is rated PG-13 because it covers the city’s earliest rough-and-tumble days, including colorful characters, scandals and mysteries. You’ll learn about the city’s underground tunnels, an area once known as “Hell’s Half Acre” and the story behind the haunting of the 108-year-old Skirvin Hotel, the city’s oldest hotel and now a Hilton where some visiting NBA players refuse to stay because of its reputation for keeping players awake at night.

This tour is offered year-round, including most Fridays and Saturdays in October and November, plus Oct. 30 and Oct. 31. Reservations are handled online at okctours.com.

Ride OKC Haunted Ghost Tour, Oklahoma City: Take a leisurely 6-mile bike ride while hearing strange and rarely told tales from supernatural historian Jeff Provine, author of four books on Oklahoma hauntings. Ride is 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 19 in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Cost is $25 per person, bring your own bike or rent one for $10 per person. Reservations can be made at rideokc.com.

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